Online pedagogical environments present a new set of challenges to instructors who teach them. One of those challenges, often present in online writing courses, is the lack of interaction between students with each other, the instructor, and the course itself. Instead, there is often a certain sense of isolation in online writing courses to the point in which they can feel like modern day correspondence courses. This dissertation provides an overview of a computer mediated discourse analysis conducted during the fall of 2012 of a writing class that employed a combination of independent small groups and a rotating group moderator role. More specifically, each group of students (consisting of 4 members) was invisible to the rest of the class. The groups were used to increase the students&rsquo perceptions of visibility within their groups/course and to increase student agency through the group moderator role.
My dissertation focuses on the results from a pre/post survey, three focus groups, and the textual analysis of class forums, peer reviews, and a group project. Using Vygotsky's concept of &ldquozone of proximal development&rdquo as theoretical foundation, I will attempt to answer two research questions: 1) How do small groups and group moderators affect student interaction in online writing courses and 2) What course design choices lead to positive student interaction in online writing courses? Although I cannot provide any general claims based on the small sample size of the participants in this situation, I can illustrate how an online writing course changes when it is configured using small groups and assigning group roles. Additionally, I hope to provide insight into how online writing courses can better facilitate course goals by configuring the online environment in certain ways including ideas on course scheduling, repurposing Web 2.0 technologies, and revising class assignments/activities.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2013. Major:Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication. Advisor: Laura Gurak. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 248 pages, appendix A-B.
Virtue, Andrew David.
Digital Struggles: Fostering Student Interaction in Online Writing Courses.
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